OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
The inspector general for the Justice Department released a report late last month after a years-long probe exonerating former President Donald Trump over the FBI’s plan to relocate its J. Edgar Hoover headquarters building.
The investigative began after Democrats accused then-President Trump of pressuring FBI Director Christopher Wray, whom he appointed after firing James Comey, to sign off on a relocation site for the HQ building that would prevent a hotel competitor from relocating on the former Hoover building site.
The plan was eventually dropped after FBI accountants decided that the federal government couldn’t sell the Hoover Building to a would-be developer for as much as it would cost to construct an entirely new building.
DOJ IG investigators noted in their report that in spite of claims by Democrats, the FBI director said that at no time did he feel pressured by Trump to reach a particular decision.
“Wray told us that his decision to recommend staying in the current location was not based on anything that Trump said or wanted… Wray told us that Trump was ‘not involved’ in Wray’s recommendation, and he did not feel that Trump was trying to ‘steer [him] to a particular outcome,’” they wrote.
“Specifically, we found no evidence that, in making the decision to seek to have the new FBI headquarters remain at its current JEH site, Director Wray or others at the FBI considered the location of the then-named Trump International Hotel or how then-President Trump’s financial interests could be impacted by the decision,” the report reads.”
In 2018, Democrats led by the late Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) accused Trump of trying to protect his Trump International Hotel in D.C. at the time, which was a three-minute walk from the Hoover Building.
“Given this background, President Trump should have avoided all interactions or communications relating to the FBI headquarters project to prevent both real and perceived conflicts of interest,” Democrats wrote then. “He should not have played any role in a determination that bears directly on his own financial interests with the Trump hotel.”
The report said:
In September 2017, President Trump called Wray and asked him what he wanted to do about the FBI Headquarters. Wray responded that he had not had a chance to look at the issue yet, and Trump advised Wray to work on it with GSA and tell Trump what Wray thought. In late 2017, then White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told Wray that it did not make sense to the President why the FBI would want to leave the JEH site.
In December 2017, Wray informed GSA that the FBI wanted its Headquarters to remain in its current location. Following a January 4, 2018 meeting in which the FBI presented JEH renovation plans to GSA, GSA recommended demolishing JEH, instead of renovating it, and building a new facility on the site.
“On January 24, 2018, before a meeting with President Trump, Kelly met in his White House office with Wray, then Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, then White House Counsel Donald McGahn, then OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, and then GSA Administrator Emily Murphy,” the report noted further.
“During this premeeting, consensus was reached on demolishing JEH and building a new facility on the site, and Wray learned that Mulvaney would support the P3 financing strategy. The same participants then met in the Oval Office with Trump, who asked Wray and Murphy what they were thinking,” the IG report added.
“Wray and Murphy told Trump that they thought the best idea was for the FBI to build a new facility in the current location, and Trump expressed support for this plan. Wray told us that he did not feel pressured or bullied by Trump in the meeting,” it said.
“Although most of the conversation focused on Trump’s construction questions about the new facility, Wray also recalled impressing on Trump that Mulvaney’s P3 support was critical for the project, but Wray did not remember what Trump said about the project funding,” said the report.